How much should we love ourselves? 2 Timothy 3 gives "lover of self" in a list of qualities with which God is displeased. So are we to love ourselves?
As a fan of Aristotle's ethics, I recall his theory of the Golden Mean, "The best things are placed between extremes." Every vice is an extreme and in the middle ground between every extreme is a virtue. The two extremes here are 2 Timothy 3's "lover of self" and hating oneself to such a degree that the only self-care you can muster is eating, per Ephesians 5:28-30. What lies between these two extremes will be the virtuous balance of loving self, not too little and not too much: loving yourself but not only yourself. It is our challenge to nurture this self-love into a healthy self-respect but pruned down and bridled from being a self-worship.
The perfect summation of this middle ground is found in Jesus' second greatest command, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mat 22:39 ESV) and also stated this way, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Mat 7:12 ESV).
The ideal, perfect treatment of others is based on your desires and your self-love: you love others in the capacity of how much you love yourself and you treat others in the way that you want them to treat yourself. Within this standard is the expectation by Jesus that you will, on some level, love yourself and will desire a minimal requirement of treatment from others. Like Paul implied in Ephesians 5:28-30, no one hates themselves so much that they don't even feed themselves. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that this self-love inherent in all creatures is your standard for treating others. In this standard, it requires a person to reflect on their self-love, quantify it, and in so doing, affirm it.
Jesus says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," but someone may ask, "what if I don't love myself?" Jesus expects you too. When it comes to actions, like Paul explains with feeding ourselves, you do love yourself. If you didn't love yourself you wouldn't mind when people mistreated you. If someone slapped you upside the head, would you be upset? Why? Because you expect to be treated better. Where does that expectation come from? If you truly believed you were no more valuable than the dirt on the ground, you wouldn't mind being stepped on, but you would get upset if a person stepped on you because you don't truly believe that. Despite the melodramatics (I mean no disrespect; I get dramatic too), you do believe you are valuable. All people have some bare minimum desire for how they are treated. No person is void of all self-love, but many people have convinced themselves that they do not deserve a good life. Jesus enforces and revitalizes our self-love by making it the standard of our treatment for others.
Bobby Price was born and raised by Christian parents in Perrin, Texas. Bobby decided early in life to become a preacher of God's word. He attended the Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas where he graduated in 2015 with his Bachelors of Biblical Studies with a focus in Congregational Ministry. Afterwards, he interned for a year at the valley view Church of Christ in Jonesboro, AR. He is currently working on his Masters of Biblical Studies, through the Sunset International Bible Institute Graduate School.